Everyone has a guilty pleasure. I’d venture a guess that for a large community of Americans, that guilty pleasure is the programming on HGTV.
I don’t know what it is with this phenomenon, but so many people I know love watching House Hunters and Fixer Upper and Property Brothers. We love watching people find their dream home or create a truly beautiful space from nothing.
Our homes give us a sense of security. They’re a place to call our own and to make memories in. We build structures, fill them with love, and turn them into homes.
Now, what’s the most dramatic part of an HGTV show? When they find that really serious problem. When they realize the support beams in the house aren’t stable or the foundation is faulty. Those are the problems where you wonder if they can ever make something good come out of this horrible situation.
Can you imagine if you found out something like that about your home? Your sanctuary that seemed so perfect. What if you found out there was a foundational problem? Or that your roof was caving in on you? That would be terrifying. Your heart would drop. You’d wonder how you’ve ever gotten this far without even seeing a problem. Right?
By now y’all know I love a metaphor, so here goes…
America is like our collective home, and us white people are just starting to recognize these serious, heart-wrenching issues that have been there all along.
Our nation was built on a bad foundation. And over the years, as the foundation threatened to crumble beneath us, we put in supports to reinforce certain bad structures rather than fix our past foundational error.
We have a horrible history of white supremacy, be it outright examples like the KKK and the confederate flag or subtle means of suppression like redlining, erasing black history, when we decided black people were only worth 3/5ths of a person, or our current problems with police brutality and mass incarceration. Our history is littered with acts of inhumanity from slavery to the genocide of indigenous people. And white people have benefited from that for years. We enjoy our lives in this mansion of America that looks beautiful to the outside world without acknowledging the rocky foundation we built that house upon.
The more I’ve researched and examined the racial injustice in our country, it’s become clear that this isn’t an issue of a few racist people among us. It’s an issue of systemic racism that places black people as second class citizens in the eyes of the government, the law, and society in general.
Don’t worry, this isn’t about to turn into a lecture, because I’m not nearly qualified enough to give that talk. I’m an incredibly privileged individual who is just now seeing, really seeing, the issues with our house, while my black peers have been experiencing the leaky roofs and cold drafts and life-threatening living conditions for their entire lives. While we’ve been living comfortably with a sense of complete security, the same house represents danger and oppression for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).
America, our house is broken. And it’s about damn time we start working to fix it.
I’ll be honest. I don’t know the first thing about how to fix a house. And well, I don’t really know where to start on dismantling systemic racism either. But I’m ready to learn, and I’m ready to work. I had the privilege of ignoring the problems for a long time, but I refuse to sit in my ignorance anymore.
I’m reading. I’m watching. I’m listening when it's time to listen and I’m speaking out when it's time to speak.
One thing I’ve learned is that the people in a place of privilege have a greater ability and therefore a responsibility to start the work. Which can be a little scary. After all, we’ve been comfortable in this place, because it was built for us. But until everyone is welcome in it, I’m embarrassed of our current house. I’m ashamed of our history and what we were built on. However, I’m looking forward to a time I can say I’m proud of where I come from. A time when we live in a genuine home where everyone can feel safe and welcomed.
My white friends, it's time for us to step up. We need to be having hard conversations. We need to be reading the books and articles and researching the history that makes us feel uncomfortable. We need to get angry that our fellow man has ever been treated this way. We need to get political and demand justice and reform that helps our black brothers and sisters enjoy the same freedoms we do. We need to vote, not just on a national scale but a local one as well. We need to do better and demand better and be better.
It’s not going to be fixed overnight. Remember those HGTV shows when they find big problems with the foundation? That wasn’t fixed overnight either. It takes work. It uproots the current plan. It may completely throw you off balance for a while. But once you recognize a problem, you can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse. It’s your responsibility now.
There’s a problem with our home, America. Let’s get to work on fixing it.
PS I wanted to include the resources I’ve been focusing on the past month or so. There are so many out there, and I included some in my last post. Here are the ones I’ve been focusing on:
Reading - So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo
Watching - 13th by Ava DuVernay on Netflix
Listening - Seeing White podcast series by Scene on Radio